Company Wants to Generate Hydro Power in Keene

An existing dam in Keene may soon generate electricity. The dam was built in the 1800s. It hasn’t generated electricity. A locally owned company, West Street Hydro, recently applied for permission from the city and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to modify the dam so it can be used to generate electricity.

The dam is on the Ashuelot River.

The nation’s electricity comes from coal (42 percent), natural gas (25 percent), nuclear (19 percent), hydro (8 percent), and wind (3 percent). The remaining 3 percent comes from biomass, geothermal, solar, and oil. (Energy efficiency programs are the most cost effective way to reduce pollution, according to www.rmi.org. These programs could reduce the amount of electricity the nation uses, while also saving consumers money, according to the same web site. One government-funded energy efficiency program has a web site at www.EfficiencyVermont.com.)

Two existing dams in Vermont, near Brattleboro, will likely soon be used to generate roughly the amount of electricity used by 6,000 people. The dams are along the West river, which meets the Connecticut river about a mile north of downtown Brattleboro. The dams are in the Vermont towns of Jamaica and Townshend.

For years, environmental activists have held rallies, been arrested for peaceful protests, and called and written their legislators to protest polluting ways to generate electricity like nuclear, coal, and gas. One result has been the passage of laws requiring the use of clean energy such as wind, solar, and hydro, and government investment in energy efficiency programs.

The Vermont dam project is being run by a New Jersey company, Eagle Creek Renewable Energy. The Vermont dams were built for flood control. Until now they haven't generated electricity. Spokespeople for West Street Hydro and Eagle Creek Renewable Energy didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment for this article.

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